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Renewables Experience Explosive Growth in First Three Years of Obama Administration

According to the most recent issue of the "Monthly Energy Review" by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), with data through December 31, 2011, renewable energy sources expanded rapidly during the first three years of the Obama Administration while substantially outpacing the growth rates of fossil fuels and nuclear power.

Between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2011, renewable energy sources (i.e., biofuels, biomass, geothermal, solar, water, wind) grew by 27.12 percent. By comparison, during the same three-year period, total domestic energy production increased by just 6.72 percent with natural gas and crude oil production growing by 13.66 percent and 14.27 percent respectively. Moreover, during the same period, nuclear power declined by 1.99 percent and coal dropped by 7.16 percent. 

Looking at all energy sectors (e.g., electricity, transportation, thermal), renewable energy sources accounted for 11.74 percent of domestic energy production in 2011 — compared to 9.85 percent in 2008. In fact, renewable energy sources provided 10.90 percent more energy in 2011 than did nuclear power, although nuclear still provides a larger share of the nation’s electricity. (On the consumption side, which includes oil and other energy imports, renewable sources accounted for 9.29 percent of total U.S. energy use during 2011.)

During the first three years of the Obama Administration, geothermal grew by 15.63 percent, hydropower by 26.28 percent, solar by 28.09 percent, biofuels by 46.58 percent, and wind by 113.92 percent. Only biomass dipped - by 1.21 percent. Hydropower accounted for 34.62 percent of domestic energy production from renewable sources in 2011, followed by biomass (26.75 percent), biofuels (22.20 percent), wind (12.75 percent), geothermal (2.42 percent), and solar (1.24 percent). 

Looking at just the electricity sector, according to EIA’s "Electric Power Monthly," with data through December 31, 2011, net electrical generation by non-hydro renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, solar, wind) grew by 54.6 percent during the first three years of the Obama Administration. During the same period, conventional hydropower expanded by 27.6 percent. Combined, electrical output from renewable energy sources was 36.5 percent greater for calendar year 2011 than it was for calendar year 2008. By comparison, between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2011, natural gas used in electrical generation grew by 15.1 percent while nuclear and coal dropped by 2.0 percent and 12.7 percent respectively.

During 2011, hydro and non-hydro renewables combined accounted for 12.67 percent of net electrical generation compared to 9.25 percent in 2008. Comparing the 12-months of 2011 against the same time period in 2008, wind grew by 116.3 percent, solar by 110.0 percent, hydropower by 27.6 percent, geothermal by 12.5 percent, and biomass by 3.1 percent. For all of 2011, non-hydro renewables accounted for 4.75 percent of net electrical generation while conventional hydropower accounted for 7.91 percent. However, non-hydro renewables have been growing rapidly and for the last quarter of 2011, they accounted for 5.5 percent of net U.S. electrical generation. Among the non-hydro renewables contributing to net electrical generation in 2011, wind accounted for 61.4 percent, followed by biomass (29.1 percent), geothermal (8.6 percent), and solar (0.9 percent). 

“The numbers speak for themselves — notwithstanding politically-inspired criticism, the pro-renewable energy policies pioneered by the Obama Administration have generated dramatic growth rates during the past three years, vastly outpacing those of all other energy sources,” said Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “The investments in sustainable energy made by the federal government as well as state and private funders have paid off handsomely underscoring the short-sightedness of emerging proposals to slash or discontinue such support.” 

The U.S. Energy Information Administration released its most recent "Monthly Energy Review" on March 28, 2012.  It can be found here.  The relevant charts from which the data above are extrapolated are Tables 1.1, 1.2, and 10.1.  EIA released its "Electric Power Monthly" with data for 2011 on February 29, 2012, which can be found here. The relevant charts are Tables 1.1, 1.1.A, ES1.A, and ES1.B.

The SUN DAY Campaign is a non-profit research and educational organization founded in 1993 to promote sustainable energy technologies as cost-effective alternatives to nuclear power and fossil fuels.

Image: violetkaipa via Shutterstock

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Ken Bossong is the Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. The SUN DAY Campaign is a non-profit research and educational organization founded in 1993 to promote sustainable energy technologies as cost-effective alternatives to nuclear power a...

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